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Food provided in Hearts of France Tour

I am considering taking the Heart of France tour - can anyone comment on the types and caliber of the meals that are provided (breakfast and some dinners. Thanks.

Posted by
9706 posts

I did this tour in the Fall of 2015. The food was so plentiful sometimes I skipped meals when we were on our own. There were several opportunities to shop local markets for lunches which is always fun.

Breakfasts are always in the hotel. Usually there was a buffet of breads, croissant, fruit, juices and probably some cold cuts and cheese. I am vegan so I am just telling you what is typically on French hotel breakfasts.

Dinners were lovely, usually we chose ahead from maybe 3 offerings. I just wrote in vegan and something delicious appeared. In general there were 2 or 3 courses, so either an appetizer or dessert along with an entree, sometimes both.

Was there something particular on your mind about the food?

Posted by
375 posts

I tend to be on the "pickier" side of eating, and I've always enjoyed the food options on our RS tours.'ll be in France, too, so my guess is that the food is going to be really good.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks - I love French food in general - part of the fun of every trip for me is figuring out the food and trying different things. I'm not a huge fan of cruising for that reason. This sounds perfect. It would be my first trip to Europe so I think I would be happy with almost anything.

Posted by
2560 posts

Here is a bit of a contrarian view from a 5 RS tour veteran. We are foodies. We fortunately don't have to budget when we dine but we don't drop mega bucks for pomp. We love good food and the dining experience and think we know value versus hype. We stopped cruising as well as the food is all about quantity, not quality. Although we have not taken this tour, we did take another RS tour in France which overlapped some of the places you will visit. The group meals on all of our tours ranged from pretty bad (rare) just OK (infrequent) to good (most often) to very good (infrequent), great (very rare). The place is feeding 20-28 people with a set menu and a budget. Yes, food in France can be fabulous, but you will not find it at a group meal unless you are very lucky. Probably good, will fill you, but not memorable. Our best meals on all of our tours were not with the group, at places we researched, reserved a table. I love the RS tours for a lot of reasons, and we will be doing 2 more this summer. But the food is not one of them and to us is a major weak point. As for breakfasts, you are at the mercy of the hotel. Most have been good, some, like ours in Madrid, laughably bad. The ones in France were good as the baked goods were generally very good, but don't expect too much. It's something to fill your stomach for a busy day.

Posted by
1315 posts

I just returned from this tour last month and generally agree with the above posters. Breakfast was provided by all hotels and varied from OK to tasty. Along with breads/croissants, cheese and meats, fruits, yogurts, and cereal, most places had eggs, sausage, and bacon, and the hotel in Mont St. Michel had crepes. A couple of the hotels had coffee 'pod' machines; all of the hotels had regular American-style drip coffee and tea, and one hotel had delicious hot chocolate.

Lunch was mostly done independently but on those days where the tour guide was escorting us around (particularly in Paris), he made recommendations for various places. We ended up at a sandwich shop the first time and a creperie the second. We did have a sandwich lunch provided at Guadelon and on the WWII beach day. Our guide also frequently shared French treats/sweets with us on the bus. I found those to be a bit hit and miss, but it was a fun experience nonetheless.

The group dinners were organized beforehand - one had a set menu; no choice. For the others, the guide and the assistant guide passed around a chart of names and you marked off which items you wanted for each course. I would say the food was always good to excellent and a lot depends on how big a fan you are of French food. I will warn you not to order a Mont St. Michel omelet if you like your eggs cooked overhard, though.

We had a fantastic time and loved the tour. We enjoy food but are not foodies and agree that food is not Rick's focus. But I would say I liked most everything and did not hate anything that I ate on the tour.

Posted by
223 posts

Imagine you viewed a tour as having five components:
- Tour guide
- Transportation
- Sights
- Lodging
- Food

My experience with Rick Steves' tours would rank them in the following order, from best to worst:

  1. Sights
  2. Transportation
  3. Tour guide
  4. Lodging
  5. Food

In short, if you enjoy good food, you're not going to find it with the provided meals on a Rick Steves tour, in my experience. You won't go hungry. The food will in all likelihood be edible. But it won't be very good, creative, or interesting. For that, you'll have to take the initiative, do your research, find a good restaurant, make a reservation (in France at least), and enjoy on your own or with a few of your tour mates.

As for specifics, breakfasts are typical French hotel breakfasts: generally coffee, juice, yogurt, cheeses, cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs, cereal, milk, pastries, bread, and spreads (butter, jam, Nutella, peanut butter). Dinners vary, but typically stick to French standards -- the kinds of meals French restaurant owners think tourists want to eat. You can do better. Use websites like tripadvisor, la fourchette, petitfute, michelin, gaultmillau, and linternaute for searching.

Good luck -- and enjoy your trip!

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for all the great information. Most of my experience with French food is more bistro type food rather than Michelin starred dining. if I have good bread and a nice dessert, I'm pretty happy. We just spent a week in St. Martin on the French side and the food was wonderful. I'm seriously debating this trip or a Viking River cruise (although I don't like ocean cruises.)

Posted by
2560 posts

Then you will be probably be OK with the group meals. But, do take some time to research places for your non-group nights and book a table. You don't need to spend a fortune to have really great food in France. And we pack very light, so no fancy clothes for those MIchellin stars. Choosing between a RS tour and a river cruise- that's a tough one. After reading many glossy brochures, reading reviews and long conversations we decided we are just not ready for a river cruise. We are 68 and 66 and very active. A much older friend once told me their are three stages of aging-the go go's, the slow go's and the no go's. We are still very much the go go's and we love the activity and immersion of a RS tour. Yes, sometimes when we are packing and unpacking for the fourth time we wonder if the river cruise time is here. But, no, not yet. So Portugal and London, here we come!

Posted by
4 posts

That made me laugh - we are still go- go's too - we will be traveling with another couple in the same age group who have been to Europe several times but not to France. I'm not really sure why we even started discussing the river cruise - it seems simple to do I guess but a tour isn't much more difficult. I had a trip that I planned myself practically booked and then lost my nerve after the attack in Paris. But I am determined to get there at least once.

I remember being shocked on the ocean cruises at the age and infirmity of many passengers but admired their grit!!

Posted by
9706 posts

If you had uncomfortable thoughts about Paris after the attacks, I'd encourage the RS tour. Even without knowing who your guide would be, I will tell you they will make you feel totally comfortable in Paris. Really. I mean this.

I'm from teeny-town Idaho and don't have much in the way of street smarts BUT after bring in Paris with RS guides I'm comfortable traveling there on my own. I just spent 8 nights there and was not in any way worried. The Parisians are going about their business as usual, going to work, walking kids to school, shopping at markets, drinking coffee or wine in sidewalk cafes.

Do plan to get there a couple of nights ahead of your tour to compensate for jet lag and allow for any flight disruptions.

Posted by
213 posts

We have been on 4 RS tours and found the food basically ok. To begin, we are also foodies and really care about quality, not quantity. The best breakfast was on the Ireland tour. The homebaked breakfast items in Galway and the smoked salmon were particularly memorable. Greece, Spain, and France were ok, basic Americanized breakfast with some local food items thrown in. The dinners were mostly good to very good. I think that the quality depends upon the connections, relationships, and interest of the tour guide. During our Ireland tour, the guide himself was a foodie and was well connected with excellent restaurants. Dinners were excellent. In Spain and Greece, the food was representative of local cuisine, and very good. The tour guides in Greece and Spain told us that they thought that the food was a major part of the overall experience and strived to make sure we experienced good authentic local cuisine. The biggest disappointment was our France tour. The food was marginal and was poorly prepared in some instances. Luckily, we had done research for dinners on our off nights and were able to eat at some very good to excellent restaurants during the tour. So, I recommend that you do some research prior and pick some good restaurants on your off nights, in case the group dinners are a disappointment. The group dinner was particularly disappointing at Mount St. Michel, since they pretty much have a captive audience and don't have to worry about competition. By the way, the good company and camaraderie during the group dinners in France made up for the marginal food.

Posted by
38 posts

Food on tours, for group dinners, depends totally on who your guide is. We had the worst food on the Heart of France tour several years ago -- by worst, I mean, for example, the night one tour member was treated to a staple in his pork chop; the night the fish was utterly disgusting to taste, and not any more appealing to smell; the night half the group was finished with dinner and dessert before the other half of the group was served anything at all. And the guide sat by and shrugged, even stating one time, "It is not my fault." And making no offer or attempt to rectify.

In Italy and Spain and Scotland, we had the and the very best of the guides on the tours I have taken.

I've been on nine RS tours. Without a doubt, the best guides find the best restaurants.